Grief Pools Part 2: Rivkey

Sunday, February 18, 2018

This is the final part of my short story "Grief Pools" that I posted yesterday. If you haven't read the first part with Nora you can find it linked here. I hope you enjoy the ending! Feel free to leave a comment down below. Happy reading!


“Screw her,” I thought as I sipped my drink, thinking about this morning.

The bar was crowded tonight even though it was a Wednesday. I had high hopes that I could meet a fuckboy to play with and later my prince charming. I had holes to fill. One in my heart and one in my downstairs and I was determined to fill both or at least one happen.

I never was the type to have non-committal sex, but since Austin died the empty feeling I had avoided for so long, returned. Austin and I had been best friends since middle school. In high school, I developed romantic feelings for him, but Austin always made it clear that he saw me like a little sister. For a while, I couldn’t cope with the rejection and it caused an empty feeling to be created. Eventually as long as Austin was around as my friend, I could shove the emptiness—the need to be loved and desired—down far enough where it was unnoticeable. Now that Austin was gone, the empty feeling had returned and I refused to deal with it.

I introduced him to Nora in this same exact bar, but I didn’t realize that my roommate and best friend would be the girl Austin would fall in love with. Even though I knew it would never happen, it was always supposed to be me. Normally, I would talk to Nora about my feelings, but she didn’t know about my secret and now it felt like she was gone too.

I started with the guy with brown wavy hair that made eye contact with me when I sat down. I walked over to him with my drink. He looked like Austin, so much—I couldn’t resist him. I glided my hand down his arm to announce my presence and he turned to face me. He was wearing a nice smile and seemed warm.

“I saw you looking at me when I sat down,” I said, cracking a coy smile.

“It was kinda hard not to,” he said, motioning me to sit next to him.

“I’m Rivkey.” I took a swallow of my vodka.

“Ren. It’s nice to meet you.”

We continued to chat, but then I noticed Ren’s eyes. They were green like Austin’s. My stomach churned as I thought about Nora who was probably lying in bed at home, wailing over another bad dream. But I had to shake it off if I was going to accomplish my goals for the night.

“Do you come here often,” I asked, taking another sip of my drink.

“Not really. I started coming a few weeks ago. I like the music,” Ren replied, smiling.

The music that Austin chose to play. My stomach churned again.

“You have good taste.” I gave a big flirty smile and rubbed his arm.

Ren was receptive to my touch and further turned his body towards mine. He began talking, but my vision blurred. All I could see was Austin’s face on Ren’s body. I quickly blinked the image out of mind and plastered on a fake smile.

“Hey do you want to go somewhere a little more private,” I said, placing my hand on Ren’s upper thigh.

He quickly nodded and began to follow me to the back of the bar. Holding his hand, I weaved through the other bar goers until I got to the back closet where Austin said the bar kept all of their cleaning supplies. I opened the door and breathed in the familiar scent of bleach and other toxic cleaning products. Ren and I pushed everything out of the way until we had a clear wall to lean up against.

Ren kissed me on the mouth hard and violently pushed his tongue into my mouth. His lips were plump and he tasted like beer. I wrapped my arms around his neck as he hands went under my shirt. I kept my eyes closed as his hands continued to wander. I saw Nora once again in my head.

This time she picking out a weapon to end her life with. She couldn’t deal with the pain of loosing Austin.

I broke the kiss to take off Ren’s shirt. I looked into his green eyes and saw Austin.

My mind imagined Austin was handing me my favorite drink across the bar with a small wink. The same wink that always made my heart do backflips and realize that I was in love with Austin, no matter how hard I tried to push it down into my subconscious.

I snapped.

“I can’t do this. I’m really sorry,” I said, pulling myself away from Ren, knocking down the mop.

“Wait! What wrong,” Ren said loudly, trying to grab my hand as jumped over the mop for the door.

I sped out of the bar swallowing back tears and the emptiness I felt. When I got outside, I motioned for a cab to pick me up from the curb as Ren burst out of the bar door.

When I got home the apartment was dark except the one faint light in Nora’s bedroom. I walked over and saw her lying in her bed staring at the ceiling.

“Hey, you alright?” I said as I crawled in her bed beside her.

It took her a moment, but eventually she rolled towards me. She rubbed the crust out of her eyes and it looked like she hadn’t slept in hours.

“He proposed to me again,” Nora said with a small disappointed sigh.

“Why do you always do this to yourself?”

She was quiet again. She tried to rake her messy hair out of her face, but her fingers kept getting caught in the tangles. Her under eyes were dark and sunken in, giving her a zombie-like expression. Her face was colorless. Unlike Austin who left suddenly without warning, she was dying slowly in front of me, and making it impossible for me to stop it. I had already lost the man I had been in love with since high school, but now I was losing my best friend too.

“Why can’t you let go?” I said.

“Why can’t you?” Nora sneered.

“I’m at least fucking trying, Nora,” I yelled.

Her face tightened. She was holding back tears

“I don’t want to try,” she said in a small voice. “I need him here.”

“We all do. But all of us are going to have to stop needing him at some point,” I said calming my voice, trying not to think about the empty feeling in my gut.

“I just feel like I’m in a grief pool and I can’t swim out of it. I just wish I would drown already.”

I winced at drown. Was she right? Was everyone that knew Austin stuck in a grief pool? Was I actually even swimming, or was I just using guys as life preservers from drowning? Did Nora even have a life preserver?

“You are drowning. Look at yourself! Austin would have never wanted you to live like this,” I said leaning up in the bed, getting angrier.

“He should have stayed then!” she screamed. Instead of sad tears, this time angry tears started swimming down her cheek.

“It’s not like he woke up and decided he was going to die!” I screamed back.

She grabbed her pillow and threw it at me. I knew she wanted to hit me. I wasn’t being sensitive enough to her, but I was tired, lonely, and I missed him too.

“He is—was my whole life,” Nora said as she reached her hand up to wipe tears away.

“He was my life too,” I said quietly.

Nora gave a questioning look. We both looked down and stared at the bed. I began to wish that I had never left the bar without Ren. As long as I was distracted by him, or any other guy, I didn’t have to feel all this crap. I didn’t want to feel it. I wanted to ignore it like I had been since I realized that Austin would never love me like he loved Nora. I had spent years filling my emptiness and rejection with other guys. I wasn’t like Nora who just wanted to feel every inch of sad emotions. I wanted it to pass. I wanted to be able to go out with my friends again and not worry about being a possible killjoy. I wanted to fill my emptiness up with something instead of coping with it.

But we were both so stuck in—as Nora called it—grief pools. And this time Austin wasn’t going to be able to lift us out of it. He wasn’t here to lift us out of our anxiety, depression, loneliness, and emptiness like he always had. And obviously we were having difficulties dealing with that. Was either of our coping mechanisms really okay? I tried to fill my heart up with new people and treated them like things. Nora decided to relive and hang onto the past. But what was a healthy way to deal with death? Obviously neither of us knew. I decided for tonight that I was going to give up on trying to convince Nora and I to move on.

“Do you want me to sleep in here with you tonight?” I said.

Nora nodded. I walked to my bedroom and changed into comfy pajamas. When I crept back into Nora’s room, she had already fallen asleep. This time she looked peaceful. I got into bed beside her and slipped under the covers. At first I thought about Ren and our quick encounter—the way his lips tasted and how he ran after me. Then I thought about the colors the Phillips decided on for their wedding—olive and gold, but after all these thoughts my mind drifted to a memory of Austin and me from high school.

“Who do you think you’re going to be?” Austin had said. He was sitting next to me in the tree house we built in eighth grade.

I twirled my hair and thought about it.

“I have no freakin’ clue—Do you even know what you want to be?”

“Nope, and I think I’m okay with that. I mean were only 16 right?” He said, having a nervous edge to his voice.

“Sure, or at least I think that’s what were supposed to think,” I said.

“But what if one day we just die? Wouldn’t you want to know who you were supposed to be?”

I glanced at him. Did I really need to know who I was supposed to be? Did it really matter in the grand scheme of things?

“Do you think anyone is going to miss us when we die,” Austin said. He turned away from me to avoid my face.

“I know I won’t miss you,” I said giggling.

He turned to look at me with the saddest face I had ever seen. He killed my laughter.

“I’m sure one day you will have a terrible job that you hate and a pretty girl that you love. And when you die, you’ll be super old and even more dorky than you are now. You’ll be surrounded by all your generations of children and make a big giant speech about your freakin’ fulfilled life—and they’ll all miss you,” I said while staring at the back of his head, hoping deep down that one day I would be the pretty girl that he loved.

“Make me a promise then,” Austin said, “If I really have all those wonderful people in my life, will you take care of them?”

“I’ll try,” I said, brushing it off.

“Seriously, Rivkey—promise me.”

“Okay I promise.”

I opened my eyes and turned to face Nora in bed. She looked at me once again with tired eyes. Instead of turning away from her, this time I crept closer and began to hold her and let her cry on my shoulder. The promise that I made before weighed on me, but I knew now that I couldn’t turn my back on it, no matter how difficult it was for me to comfort the love of Austin’s life that I always wanted to be me.

I wasn’t sure if we would ever find our way out of our grief pools, but I knew someday the water would get lower where we could breathe again. Until then, I was going to have to hold both of us up so we wouldn’t drown. It was the only way either of us would ever move on and become dependent on ourselves. And it was the last thing I would ever be able to do for Austin Crawford.

(Read Grief Pools Part 1: Nora)

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